Thursday February 23 2012

MPs tell off Museveni over UK oil petition

By Sheila Naturinda & Yasiin Mugerwa

A group of lawmakers this Thursday accused President Museveni of personalising the country’s oil deposits, and asked him to stop intimidating Parliament with what they called “empty threats”.

In what looks like a new oil battle between President Museveni and Parliament, a cross-section of MPs from both the ruling NRM party and the opposition led by Theodore Ssekikubo and Abdu Katuntu held a news conference at Parliament and accused the President of “mortgaging oil fields” and “donating huge sums of money” to foreign oil companies when Ugandans are stuck in abject poverty.

“The President used the first oil money (Shs1.7trillion) to buy fighter jets and other military hardware when girls in schools don’t even have sanitary pads,” Apac district woman MP Betty Amongi said.

In his address to the NRM caucus on Monday night at Entebbe State House, President Museveni said he was ready for a show down on oil with parliament, accusing some MPs of petitioning the UK House of Commons in what he called “economic sabotage.”

But Ssekikubo said that the President is shifting blame from himself to the MPs. “By defying the House resolutions on oil, President Museveni is the one committing economic atrocities. He is running a system of plunder and we must call him to order. Petitions, memoranda, appeals and whistle blowing are legitimate and even if we had petitioned UK parliament, what crime have we committed? These are just threats and we are ready for him. Oil belongs to the people of Uganda and the people of Uganda want to see transparency.”

Mr Katuntu said signatures will be collected from the civil society, religious leaders and the general public for a petition to the European Union, the UK House of Commons, the French Parliament, and the United Nations. He also said that the Prime Minister and the President will be forwarded get copies.

“We want President Museveni to know that we are not scarecrows,” Mr Abdul Katuntu said. “We are going to walk to every single village in the country, asking Ugandans of to be part of our crusade.”

He added that the country has been fed on lies for too long by the President, which could jeorpadise the oil sector. “Why is this government deliberately pushing this oil sector the Nigerian way? We are ready for the showdown as he promised and if he wants to see real protests, let him start to open his eyes,” Katuntu said.

The MPs said oil companies that signed agreements outside the law will have their contracts annulled in future.

The news conference was held a day after this newspaper reported that Tullow Oil plc. was heading to court to protest the amount of capital gains tax Uganda Revenue Authority was charging them in the $2.9billion deal that brought French’s Total and CNOOC from China into the country’s oil sector.

The legislators’ concern is drawn from the fact that there is already an ongoing London arbitration case between the State and Heritage Oil where government is expected to spend more than Shs17billion in court fees. The arbitration in the case of Tullow against URA could even cost much more.

“We now can see that we have a bad deal, it’s a game, and we must start crying like never before. We will not allow to be duped, and we must walk the long distance to get what belongs to us,” one of the lawmakers, Ndorwa East MP, Wilfred Niwagaba said.

Acting government Chief Whip Daudi Migereko said the petitioners would be charged when the DPP is done with investigations. The MPs however denied they were behind that petition, but thanked President Museveni for the idea.

President Museveni’s Spokesman Tamale Mirundi was not available for comment.

MPs at the Press Conference:

1. Theodore Ssekikubo

2. Wilfred Niwagaba,

3. Abdu Katuntu,

4. Cerinah Nebanda

5. Hamson Denis Obua

6. Gonzaga Sewungu

7. Odonga Otto

8. Betty Amongi

9. Gerald Karuhanga

10. Hassan Fungaroo Kaps.

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